A new Costco Warehouse is going up across town, and Husband and I (lackadaisical shoppers if ever there were any) have been looking forward to having it here. We tell ourselves somewhat self-righteously that belonging to Costco will somehow be “better” than belonging to Sam’s Club, as if the Costco corporate empire is any less reprehensible than the Walmart one.
These are the questions that torment us earnest do-gooder consumer-guilt-ridden save-the-earth types: I really, really want a nice big leg of lamb to grill for Easter dinner, but I really, really don’t want to pay the nice big price my local butcher is asking for it. And Sam’s does have really good sinfully cheap lamb.
No worries – tempting as it is, I won’t start ranting about the sinful lamb of godlike Sam.
I know how spoiled I am, fretting about the cost of premium lamb when there are people who’ll be lucky to eat peanut butter on Easter Sunday.
They won’t be doing that in New Mexico, though. Almost a million jars of perfectly good peanut butter were ignominiously dumped at a New Mexico landfill last week. A bankrupt peanut-processing plant was being sold; the hasty removal of 950,000 jars of peanut butter stored there was a stipulation of the sale.
It was Costco peanut butter, made with $2.8 million worth of Costco peanuts. Costco refused to take delivery of it. Costco further refused to let it be donated to food banks or re-labeled and sold to brokers who supply various institutions.
This is the kind of bureaucratic idiocy that drives me beyond the pale: Hunger is epidemic, and 25 tons of high-quality long-shelf-life protein is thrown in the garbage over procedural paperwork protocols.
No worries – tempting as it is, I won’t start ranting about the sinful environmental disaster those 950,000 jars represent. But Costco people should by rights have been down there with spatulas, emptying them out one by one to rinse and recycle. They should have been forced to trash all that food in person. It’s like murder, which should always be a hands-on messy sort of affair. None of this impersonal drone killing. None of this impersonal distance dump trucking.
OK, so I did wander off for a moment there. I meant to discuss my own bureaucratic garbage.
I have two employee ID badges. One is specific to the building where I work. The other is issued by the school district. That one is key-coded to allow electronic access to the building.
My district tag, eight years old, developed a slow crack and finally stopped opening the door. This is a real problem, since if you can’t unlock the doors by the staff parking lot you have to hustle 1/2 mile around the building to the main entrance (not that a 1/2 mile walk would hurt me in any way; too many peanut-butter-and-dill-pickle sandwiches). The alternative is to stand pathetically at the door, peering in like a bedraggled wet beagle begging to come out of the rain and waiting for some scornful student or scolding administrator to let you in.
Back in the day, someone down in our main office would back you up against the wall, stick a camera a foot away from your nose, snap a terrible photo, and call it good.
That, alas, is no longer the case. First, I am told to call the district office. The district office tells me that those badges are now ordered by our on-site office manager. Our on-site office manager says that those duties have been passed to a departmental secretary, someone who exudes negativity from the seeming depths of hell and whose goal is to squelch you before you can even say hello. Anytime anyone has to deal with this person, they sigh heavily and procrastinate and then gird their loins, ready to be attacked and thwarted and demeaned and ultimately unsuccessful in whatever perfectly reasonable request they have.
I smile into the phone when I call her, forcing warmth into my voice. I explain my predicament as pleasantly as possible and make a plea for her assistance. I do about as much fawning as I can without throwing up.
Her first words are mouth-puckering sour: “You are going to have to pay for it.”
“That’s just fine,” I say, grateful in a way for consistency and the fact that I knew perfectly well how this would go. She does not say just how much she’ll make me pay.
“And I won’t order it until you have a new picture taken,” says she.
“No problem,” I say. “I had an official staff photo taken just this fall. It’s in the database.”
“I won’t use that,” she states. “You have to go out to the district office and have a new photo taken.” Now, the district office is at the opposite corner of the city. Going out there involves a half-hour trip each way. It’s not on the way to anything.
So I give her the thrill she’s been waiting for: I beg. “Can’t our security officer take a new picture, then?” I ask. “Can’t you do it for me?”
“NO,” she answers. Saying she was curt would be going way out of my way to make her seem polite. “You have to go out there. I won’t order the badge until you go out there and take care of it.” I breathe deeply and make elaborate plans to slowly strangle her, a hands-on messy sort of affair I will enjoy very much.
Can’t you hear that same discussion at Costco? Some underling suggests that a million jars of peanut butter might better be resold or donated – perhaps even to the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico, located en route to the dump from the plant — and some tight-lipped petty bureaucrat puffs up to bark, “NO?”
My new ID tag (when it arrived after a vindictive delay) came wrapped in a bright orange list of printed instructions: “Do not use as an ice-scraper. Do not machine wash. Do not iron or subject to flame. Do not pound with a pen or tool. Do not poke with sharp objects.”
And, my favorite: “Do not bite.” Really. I couldn’t make this stuff up.
Perhaps they put that on the peanut butter, too.